Monday, December 7, 2009

Early Illustrators of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes

I'm especially fond of antique Mother Goose books. Here are a few samples of antique Mother Goose illustrations:

It's interesting how different these three interpretations are of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush."

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Above, Henriette Willebeek Le Mair from Our Old Nursery Rhymes, 1911. Le Mair, a native of Holland, was strongly influenced by French illustrator Maurice Boutet de Monvel. Her children are pastel, delicate -- they have a certain formality about them.

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Jessie Wilcox Smith's children are bright and lively. You can actually feel the movement in this illustration from Mother Goose, 1914. A Philadelphia native, Smith studied under Howard Pyle. She truly loved children and had originally intended to be a kindergarten teacher.

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Here is Eulalie Minifred Bank's Mulberry Bush. I love the old-fashioned, innocence of her children. This is from Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, 1923.

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Another lovely Jessie Wilcox Smith illustration, Mistress Mary Quite Contrary.
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And from the very popular Real Mother Goose, 1916, an illustration of Mistress Mary by Blanche Fisher Wright. This is from an early edition of this popular title. I've noticed that the colors are much richer in the earlier books.

This will likely be the first many blogs on antique nursery rhyme illustrations.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Masha, a Mystery Illustrator of Childrens Books in the '40s

Masha (Maria Simchow Stern) illustrated the very first Little Golden Book, Three Little Kittens in 1942. That is some claim to fame, however, there is virtually no information available about Masha. Considering that she had a "pen name," she must have wanted to stay anonymous.
In my book dealing, I have come across two titles by Masha from the '40s, The Child's Book of Bible Stories and the Child's Book of Prayers, published by Random House.

The illustrations in both of these books are so beautiful. The design enhances the art with gold borders and gold touches. Very sweet, innocent children, dreamy pastel coloring. Heavenly . . .

Here are some images:


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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dog Illustrators Capture the Canine Spirit

Small children, horses, dogs -- can't resist vintage books with illustrations of these. Today, the subject is dogs. Many children’s books illustrators have their favorite dogs – Tasha Tudor is known for curious Corgis.

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Bessie Pease Gutman’s little collies are as adorable as her babies.

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Marguerite Kirmse (1885-1954) was one of America’s most noted canine artists. Her favorite breed was Scotties, but she was well known for her etchings of Pointers. I particularly like her collies when she teamed up with Albert Payson Terhune. In images, she captured the personality, intelligence and beauty of the breed that Terhune conveyed in his stories.

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Wesley Dennis is more known for the horses he illustrated for Marguerite Henry’s books. "This artist saw beyond hide and hair and bone. You could see that he understood and loved animals, that he was trying to capture their spirit, personality and expression,” Henry said of Dennis’s work. They also collaborated on the Book of Dogs, which includes really charming images of puppies and dogs of varying breeds.

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Ruth Wright Paulsen collaborates with her husband on many books including Puppies, Dogs and Blue Northers. I like the soft textures in her huskies as they sleep in pink and blue snow fields.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes – Among the Best

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Marguerite de Angeli, (1889-1987) if not a Renaissance women, she was certainly multi-talented. Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes is considered one of the finest Mother Goose illustrations.

This children’s book author and illustrator started her professional career as a concert contralto. She gave that up to start a family – she had 6 children – and learned illustration from Maurice Bower when she was in her 30s. It seems book illustration is a healthy path as she lived to the age of 98.

As an author, she was a bit of a maverick, tackling challenging subjects in the ‘40s, such as racial prejudice. She often wrote of poor people, minorities and others who were disenfranchised. She won many awards including a Newberry Award for The Door in the Wall, a Newberry Honor for Black Fox of Lorner and two Caldecott Honors for her illustrations of Yonie Wondernose and the Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes in 1957.

The Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes is an especially lovely find for the genre. The large pages allow the images, both color and black and white to dance through the pages. The delicate black and white drawings are every bit as delightful as the color illustrations. I love her Little Bo Peep – so much detail.

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Throughout the book, the images are soft and warm, portraying perfectly the soft, still unformed young child. In her biography, she tells how she used her family members as models. She captures the mood of the rhymes with humour and sensitivity. It will bring a smile to your face to look at Mary Had a Little Lamb. The children in the classroom are so delighted to have a lamb at school!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Holling C. Holling -- Colourful Historic Fiction

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Holling Clancy Holling (1900 -1973), a prolific children’s book writer and illustrator, combined large, colorful, full-page illustrations with nature-themed books. His style combined fiction with history and he was therefore able to take children on a learning adventure.
Holling was born in Holling Corners, Michigan to an educated family which loved books. He loved to draw from early childhood as well as to spend time in the Michigan woodlands. Holling graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and went to work for the Field Museum of Natural History. (Walter Alois Weber also attended the Art Institute and worked at the Field Museum, probably following Holling by several years.)
Holling met his wife Lucille while at the Art Institute. Eventually they worked together to illustrate many children’s books. They say Lucille worked on much of the border art. Seems like a very nice partnership.
Holling’s rich and brightly colored illustrative style was developed when he spent some time studying in New Mexico.

Children of Many Lands,above 1929, was one of the first children’s books he illustrated. It is fun to browse the colorful interpretations of children from Japan, China, Holland . . .

The Book of Indians, 1935 -- Swaths of desert peach creates an awesome illustration.

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More horses from Book of Indians:

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He is best known for the series of books he wrote and illustrated – historical fiction. Paddle to the Sea, was his first in this series. It traces the journey of a woodcarving made by an Indian boy through the Great Lakes and out to the Atlantic Ocean. See the drama in this illustration. He knew how to make geography fun.

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And the pretty cover of Seabird, a story about four generations of travel by a carved ivory gull.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Many Illustrators of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty

I don't know how many different artists have illustrated a version of Black Beauty since it was first published in 1877. It may be the children's book with the most editions. I have read that the Bible is the only book that has sold more copies. It's popularity is a testament not only to the quality of the book, but also to the scores of animal lovers in the world. Anna Sewell told a story that needed to be told -- after all the centuries of servitude the horse has given mankind. It lives on today as a reminder to be kind to all living beings.
Every time I see a version of Black Beauty at a book sale, I buy it. Here are some interpretations:

Perhaps my favorite Black Beauty, by Wesley Dennis. Very soft, fluid. The perfect illustration for the narrative, "I remember a large pleasant meadow."

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The Walter Seaton Black Beauty, nice.

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Cute Black Beauty art for young readers -- Wonder Book's BB with a little girl by George Santos

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Samuel Lowe's BB with a boy by George Pollard

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Distinctive style of Fritz Eichenberg

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And a "modern times" black Beauty by Susan Jeffers. Love her dreamy style, lots of attention to surrounding details. Nice lines.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bessie Pease Gutmann -- Golden Age of Illustration

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Bessie Pease Gutmannn was one of the women illustrators from what is considered the Golden Age of Illustration late 1800s to early 1900s. Improved printing techniques and booming industrialized economy allowed for lavishly produced books filled with illustrations.

She learned her trade at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Jessie Wilcox Smith also attended the school, at earlier date. Howard Pyle considered the father of American illustration taught at the Drexel School in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was a breeding ground for American illustrators at the time.

Pease Gutmann's first illustrated books were A Child's Garden of Verses in 1905 and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1907. Her early works were influenced by the Drexel School artists -- black outlines and flat colors. They are wonderful illustrations and she had the ability to capture the spontaneity and innocence of childhood.

When she had her own children, she started to use them as models and developed the style she is known for. Very sweet, innocent and healthy babies and toddlers painted in pastel tones. In many of her paintings adorable puppies -- often collies -- complete the picture.

Unlike many of her contemporaries, she was fortunate to be able to combine her career with motherhood. Her husband owned the publishing company she worked for.
These illustrations came from Sweet Dreams It combines the lovely art of Bessie Pease Gutmann with the poems of Pamela Prince.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Brian Froud and His Faeries

British illustrator Brian Froud is likely the most highly acclaimed of current fantasy illustrators. Born in 1947, Froud says he became interested in fairyland while in college and one of his major influences is Arthur Rackham.
I was drawn to Froud's illustrations immediately recognizing their Rackhamesque qualities. In an interview in Fairies World, Froud says he was drawn in by Rackham's trees with faces. They reminded him of climbing trees as a child and the connection he had with the souls of trees.

Froud's illustrations are enlivened by his deep connection to the fairy world:

" It's very interesting, people often think that dealing with faery is a retreat from reality and I say 'no' it is not, it is actually a re-engagement with the world."

Here are some of his earlier works from Fairies and Master Snickup's Cloak, both published in 1979.

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I like the fluidity of his mermaid. Froud says fairies are always flowing.

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Very pretty bluebell fairy.

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You can see the Rackham influence particularly in this from Master Snickup's Cloak. Froud said he used more browns early in his illustrating career, and then moved towards more intense multi-layered colors.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Early Illustrators of a Child's Garden of Verses

A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the most illustrated children's books with more than 100 versions. Stevenson's poems capture the wonder and fantasy of childhood and I can see why every illustrator of children's literature would want to add their interpretation. I recently picked up a book that is a sort of anthology of early illustrators of A Garden of Verses. Put out by Chronicle Books in 1989, it includes illustrations of the poems by some 20 illustrators, from 1896 to 1940. The book is a pleasure to browse through, each illustration a delight to the visual sense.
Although all the illustrations are beautiful, some are particularly appealing to my sense of aesthetics. I find myself drawn over and over again to the Clara M. Burd illustrations. She often signed her work, C M Burd. I orignally found her through a rare book, called Friendly Animals. (As the book is in tatters, I have been matting the illustrations).

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C.M. Burd is one of the few illustrators who went to Paris to study art. I think possibly it is her use of color that attracts me -- she often has a mix of muted, neutrals contrasted with brighter tones. This particular illustration is actually more colorful than most of her work. She also make nice use of light - I think she must have painted outdoors.
I would have liked to share all the illustrations in this book -- but I had to stop myself and include some of my favorites as well as some that show the diverse styles.

From 1922, Juanita Bennett -- a similar use of color in a more dream world style.I would like to find out more about this artist --not much information out there.

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Jessie Wilcox Smith, 1905, very detailed, painterly, beautiful -- she is a very popular and well-regarded illustrator -- one of the few women who made it into the Illustrator Sourcebook. She was a student of Howard Pyle.

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Millicent Sowerby, 1908, was primarily self taught and her work shows a great diversity. I was drawn to this one -- I think it has an Arthur Rackham feel to it.

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The simpler, understated style of H. Willebeek Le Mair, 1926.

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And again the prolific Margaret Tarrant, 1918 -- reminds me of early poster art.

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Ruth Mary Hallock, 1940, love the very '40s look of this illustration. There is another of hers I like equally, but it needs more space.

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And another very pretty one by Florence Edith Storer, 1909

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I'd like to find the originals of these books in any condition.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wildlife Artist, Illustrator Walter Alois Weber

Walter Alois Weber is one of the most noted of wildlife illustrators. As I was sorting through my books about wildlife and animals, I came across Homes and Habits of Wild Animals. This is one of my very favorites. The wildlife portraits are breathtaking.

Weber (1906-1979) is a native of my own hometown, Chicago. According to interviews, Weber developed his talent for drawing at an early age and used to sell his drawings at a local tavern so he could buy soda pop. He later studied at the University of Chicago and the Art Institute, and worked for the Field Museum. His resume goes on . . . He spent many years as an artist for National Geographic Society and he was the first artist to win the duck stamp award.

I like the softness of his painting. While his wildlife drawing is excellent, there is a certain romanticism to the the picture as a whole, no doubt enhanced by the beautiful background landscape. Here are three from the book:

The Alaskan brown bear. The soft greens and blues of the mountain stream are lovely. Makes me want to take a trip up north.

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The Barren Ground Caribou on its annual migration through the icy northern country. The lilac and blue tones truly evoke a feeling for that beautiful wintry land.

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In the river otter portrait, I like the way he captures the playful nature of the animal.

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Here, also is the cover of Friendly Animals. While the cover was illustrated by Weber, the inside pages were done by Percy Reeves. Reeves has a less realistic style, but it is quite charming.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Fascination With Antique Book Illustration

There is nothing I love better than going to an estate sale and finding a collection of vintage illustrated books. That is the jackpot for me!

I truly believe all books -- particularly all fiction -- should be illustrated. Artistic illustrations certainly create a more collectible book. Illustrations are like the decor in a home. They can make it more beautiful, more true to its essence.

I recall going through a collection of Limited Editions Club books I acquired. I was looking through each of the Shakespeare volumes. Now, a Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays -- the fairies, the fantasy, the forest.  Prior to opening the book, I had a vision in my head of what the illustrations should look like. I opened the book to find Arthur Rackham's interpretation of the play was perfect -- capturing the essence of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The soft colors, his light-handed, mystical style . . . just right.

Those types of books are a treasure to behold. If you have any stories of books that are perfectly illustrated please share them. 

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